On Tuesday, Serbian tennis star Dalila Jakupovic was forced to withdraw from the Australian Open 2020, as she could not complete her qualifier match against Stefanie Voegele due to a coughing fit. It has been understood that her health issue was caused by the poor air quality in and around Melbourne, caused by the Australian Bushfires.
Jakupovic was leading 6-4 5-6 against the Switzerland international Voegele, but she was unable to finish her service game at the end of the second set.
Later, in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Amanda Davies, the 28-year-old revealed that she experienced ‘breathing difficulties’ during the match.
“It was very hard for me to breathe for the whole match. After 20 minutes I already had difficulties,” she was quoted as saying. “I wasn’t able to make more than three shots running left and right because I was already getting an asthma attack. I don’t have asthma normally.”
Thick smoke in Melbourne as bushfires affect Australian Open qualifying
She further added that she was given a breathing apparatus by a physio in the first set, but began to feel worse at the end of the second.
“I just couldn’t breathe,” she said. “I couldn’t walk so I just went down (onto the floor) because I couldn’t stand up straight. After that, I had a panic attack because I couldn’t get air. It was very hard, I have to say. It was one of my hardest matches.”
Jakupovic also hit out at the Australian Open organizers, calling for them to do more to help players who are suffering due to the poor air quality.
“We are a bit disappointed because we thought they would take better care of us,” she said, before adding:
“Also my opponent after the match said she also had trouble. Not as bad as me, but she said she couldn’t breathe normally because of the air. It’s not the way you want to compete like this to have (these) problems … It’s not the ideal situation. We were talking about it but (organizers) said that they checked and that the air was fine.”
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“Obviously this is not pollution, it’s smoke so it’s a bit different to what we are used to. We play in China, we play in other countries and cities that are polluted but this is smoke, it’s something that none of us has experienced before,” Jakupovic signed off.